The Milwaukee Bucks Can No Longer Be Ignored by the NBA or Its Fans

Jesse MotiffSenior Analyst IMarch 23, 2010

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 05: Brandon Jennings #3 of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden February 5, 2010 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

For the better part of the last decade the Milwaukee Bucks were a joke of an NBA franchise.

Owner Herb Kohl held open a revolving door for general managers and coaches. He also refused to spend any significant amount of money on player transactions.

The only major money spent on a free agent was Bobby Simmons, who turned out to be a bust for the team. Kohl gave franchise money to Michael Redd, and that contract has shackled the team in any effort to rise from the basement of the league.

But those days are long gone, and the Milwaukee Bucks have posted the best record in the NBA since February. No one person is the focal point of the team's success. Credit needs to be spread among general manager John Hammond, coach Scott Skiles, and the current roster.

Many fans will see the Bucks as the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and pay little attention to them. Doing so is ill-informed and a huge mistake. The numbers simply don't lie. The Bucks are a legitimate threat heading into the playoffs and will do a lot more than just scaring whoever they might face.

There will be many that read this and immediately dismiss it as "homer" talk. There's no need to take one man's opinion on the subject, the numbers back up the excitement for the team and show what a dangerous team the Bucks have become.

The Bucks are 20-5 since Jan. 27.

Since trading for John Salmons, the team has gone 14-2. Salmons has led the team in scoring, averaging 19.8 points in his 16 games with Milwaukee. His presence has given the team a new confidence that they can compete with any team in the league.

GM John Hammond should be given GM of the Year award based solely on fleecing the Bulls for Salmons in exchange for Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander. It's just the latest in a long line of moves he has made to better the team since coming over from Detroit in April 2008.

The Bucks have been hot for the last two months, but they have been playing their best ball of the year in the last week.

Friday night the Bucks outlasted the Kings in double overtime for a big road win after dropping a game to the Clippers two nights earlier.

That was followed up the next night by a win over the Nuggets in Denver. As if that win wasn't impressive enough, they did so with Andrew Bogut playing just 15 minutes and scoring only two points.

The Hawks came to Milwaukee last night in what could be a first round playoff preview. The Bucks outscored the Hawks by 10 in the fourth quarter to pull out a three point win.

Once again the Bucks beat a very good team without much help from Bogut and Brandon Jennings. Bogut scored just nine points in 28 minutes, while the rookie point guard scored only two points in 16 minutes. It's just the latest in a long list of examples proving that the Bucks are more than just a one or even two-man team.

It's the depth of the Bucks that make them so dangerous. One night Andrew Bogut can drop 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead the way, while the next night Brandon Jennings can catch fire behind the three-point line and score 30 and dish eight assists.

Salmons has scored in double-digits in every game as a Buck. Carlos Delfino has also become a consistent scorer and option on the offensive end.

Luke Ridnour and Jerry Stackhouse have been able to give the team scoring options off the bench, while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has turned into a very good defender, able to guard the opposing team's best scoring option.

While the Bucks have a plethora of scoring options, it has been the defense that has sparked their rise up the standings since January. They have held 14 of their last 24 opponents under 90 points and are 20-2 this season when doing so.

The Bucks can match up well with any team in the East. Although they may not have their own LeBron James or Dwight Howard, they have plenty of athletes and big bodies that cause problems for every team in the conference. Add in the fact that Jennings is already in the upper echelon of point guards, and Milwaukee turns into a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Fans in Milwaukee have finally taken to the team and have been filling up the Bradley Center in recent weeks. A full house in the stands to see the Bucks is a welcome change for a team that only saw sellouts when a big name from another team came to town.

Even after reading this, there will be plenty of fans that dismiss the Milwaukee Bucks as nothing more than an average team that will do nothing once the playoffs start. It would be a huge mistake to do so, and any team that does the same thing will face an early exit thanks to Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, and the rest of the hottest team in the NBA.


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